By Janet Hilliker
For myself, the part of Northern Yearly Meeting (NYM) annual sessions that I treasure most is the presentations by the children. At almost the end of the sessions, after three days of Meeting for Business, we are thrilled by the energy and ingenuity of the various songs or skits or art by the kids. This year, one older age group passed the microphone all along the line. Usually, one person said one word, then passed the mike on, creating an extended sentence. However, there was one exuberant child who blurted out several words each time she had the mike. As a reflection of the various personalities, some shy and some not so, this delighted and impressed me.
Like many Quaker meetings, Milwaukee is aging. Many in our meeting do not have children in this birth through teen age range. Some do have grandchildren, but they may live far away. Our joy as we observe the kids in our meeting fulfills a real human need we have to be part of an inter-generational community. Children bring spontaneity, creativity, and freshness to our experiences.
Within Milwaukee meeting, we are blessed to have energetic adults who are inspired to guide our young people. Friends often express gratitude that the children are involved; a good example is the recent Mother’s Day Pancake Brunch. A few skilled people are paid by our meeting to guide First Day School or provide care for the youngest.
Children are our future. In the past, we have been clear about asking parents if they needed child care to attend Meeting for Business, Adult Religious Education, or another event. Lately that request has been less consistent.
When families are new to Meeting, we welcome them verbally during the introduction circle. I sometimes wonder how smoothly new people (of all ages) are integrated into our community.
How do we support and empower children and their families?